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Friendly transaction

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A recent mortgage transaction showed that a state agency head has increased substantially the real estate business his department is doing with a friend and fellow supporter of Gov. Mike Beebe.

In September, Capitol Place LLC, whose registered agent and at least part owner is Richard Mays, a Little Rock lawyer and former legislator who serves on the state Claims Commission, took out a $6.2 million mortgage with Delta Trust for the former Arkansas Baptist State Convention building at 525 W. Capitol. The LLC bought the building in 2009 for $3.2 million, but now plans the addition of another floor to provide still more rental space to the Arkansas Department of Career Education, headed by Mays' friend and fellow Beebe supporter, Bill Walker. That lease serves as collateral for the mortgage.

Walker wants to combine state Rehabilitation Services into the one building. When completed, the state will pay almost $37,000 a year more for about 2,000 square feet less space than the department has now.

Anne Laidlaw, director of the Arkansas Building Authority, which oversees state leasing, raised some questions about the original rental in 2009. She discovered the state was negotiating a lease with an LLC that was soon to sell the building to the LLC headed by Mays. She consulted with the governor's office, which said it urged her to go by the book.

Laidlaw said Walker favored the building. She said the state studied comparable offers downtown and worked out an acceptable deal, particularly considering inclusion of 100 parking spaces.

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